near Dunkeld, Tayside
Ballechin House was built in 1806 on the site of an old manor
house which had been owned by the Stuart Family for over three
centuries. In 1806 Robert Stuart was born in the new house.
In 1825, at the age of 19, he went to India to seek his fortune
with the East India Company and returned in 1850 after reaching
the rank of Major, returning to Ballechin, which he had inherited
16 years previously in 1834. As the house had been let to tenants
he lived in a small cottage in the grounds until their lease
local population regarded him as a bit of an eccentric. He was
deeply religious but after 25 years service in India had added
various oriental beliefs to his convictions, including the idea
of transmigration of the soul. He vowed that when he died he
would return to Ballechin in the body of his favourite black
spaniel. He scorned the company of humans, preferring dogs,
and he had 14 of them in the house. The only person with whom
he associated was Sarah, his housekeeper, who died mysteriously
at the age of 27, in 1873. It was not lost to local gossip that
she had died in his bed, as opposed to the servants' quarters,
where housekeepers normally slept. It was this master bedroom
that was to become the most haunted room in the house.
Stuart died in 1874 and was buried at Logierait churchyard in
the grave next to Sarah. His nephew, John Stuart, who took over
Ballechin House, shot all the dogs, starting with the black
spaniel, almost certainly to forestall Robert Stuart in his
declared intention of returning to the house after his death.
John Stuart was a devout Roman Catholic. His first task was
to convert the cottage in the grounds into a retreat for nuns.
Robert Stuart's sister, Isabella, had become a nun, taking the
name of Sister Frances Helen. She died at a convent on 23rd
February, 1880, and was to become a regular visitor to the house
after her death.
first sign of a haunting occurred shortly after Robert Stuart's
death. John Stuart's wife, having just moved into Ballechin,
was busy in the Major's old study one day when she noticed a
strong smell of dogs in the room. Whilst she was opening the
window to get rids of the "foul smell" she felt a
nudge on her leg. Looking down she could see no animal but she
described it as if an invisible dog had rubbed itself against
her. This was to be followed a few days later by the sounds
of knocking and also the distinct sound of a gun being fired.
Quarrelling was to be heard later but the words were indistinct.
By the end of the 1870's the situation had become that bad that
the Stuart's governess left. A Jesuit priest, Father Hayden,
who often stayed at Ballechin, heard the sounds on many occasions,
including the sounds of screams. On one occasion he heard the
sound of what appeared to be a dog banging on his bedroom door
but when he opened the door to investigate there was nothing
there. Later on Father Hayden was to meet the former governess,
purely by chance, and upon discussing Ballechin learned that
he had slept in the two worst rooms of the house.
January, 1895, John Stuart was in the Major's old study one
day, talking to his agent about estate business, when they were
disturbed by three loud thudding sounds which were heard coming
from inside the room. This must have been an omen because a
short while later John Stuart died in London after being run
over by a cab.
1896 the house was leased to a family for a period of twelve
months, the successor to John Stuart being an Army captain and
having no real interest in the estate. The family were to live
there for a mere 11 weeks before being driven out, willingly
forfeiting over nine months paid rent, having heard the knockings,
thumping and quarrelling. Various members of the family were
to experience the sight of a ghost, dressed in a silk dress,
and hear the sounds of a silky dress proceeding down the corridors.
Bedclothes were pulled off beds and the whole family were awakened
several times by loud banging noises. One of the daughters of
the family was terrified one night when she heard the sound
of limping footsteps walking round her bed. Her screams brought
several other members of the family to her room and they too
were able to verify that there was "something" there
in the room. The girl was occupying the room in which the young
housekeeper had died so mysteriously in 1873. It is interesting
to note that Major Stuart had returned from India with a permanent
leg injury as a result of wounds sustained during his active
1896 the Marquis of Bute, a keen student of psychic phenomena,
rented Ballechin House and asked two psychic investigators,
Colonel Lemesurier Taylor and Miss Goodrich-Speer, to carry
out the investigation. The couple moved into Ballechin on 3rd
February, 1897, with a total group of 35 people. On the first
morning after their arrival they reported "a loud clanging
noise" which had been heard throughout the house at frequent
intervals over a period of two hours. The muffled sound of voices
had been heard and also the sound of somebody walking in locked
and empty rooms. Also reported were the sounds of something
being dragged along the floor and of a gun being fired. The
next morning several of the group were to report that they had
also heard the sound of a priest conducting a service.
the period of investigation two nuns were seen by a frozen stream
near the house. One nun was kneeling and appeared to be crying
whilst the other appeared to be comforting her. The crying nun
is thought to have been Isabella, sister of Robert Stuart, who
had died in 1880.
of the group were active Spiritualists and they brought a Ouija
board into the investigation. During the course of a seance
a person giving the name of "Ishbel" came through
and asked the investigators to go to the frozen stream where
the two nuns had been seen. On reaching the spot the investigators
saw the figure of a nun, quite clearly visible, wearing a black
habit against a white snowy background, slowly walking up a
glen until she suddenly vanished under a tree. The same nun
was to be seen many times by the group before they finished
in 1932 the house was totally uninhabitable and remained empty
until 1963 when it was finally demolished.
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